The Library of Missing Datasets 2.0,  data reincarnation


“We cannot talk about responsible data without talking about the moment when data becomes data”. This is the starting point of the research by Mimi Onuoha, an artist who explores the processes by which people are measured, abstracted, represented and classified into structured data. The Library of Missing Datasets 2.0 is an installation that consists of typical office furniture, which symbolically collects physical (empty) folders of numerous “missing” datasets such as “Poverty and employment statistics that include people who are behind bars” or ” Muslim mosques/communities surveilled by the FBI/CIA”. This information is not imaginary exactly, but it encounters some (often political) complications during the digital collection phase. The artist identifies at least four reasons why these datasets do not exist. First, those who have access to a data set also have the ability to remove or hide them. Second, the act of collection involves more work than the perceived benefit of the existence of the data. Third, the data to be collected often cannot be described with a simple quantification. And fourth, there are certainly advantages in the omission of some datasets. The physical transposition of these voids into the “folder” object thus emphasizes an existence: the ordered labels, placed in a file of empty folders, but potentially full of data, scream their own presence. Therefore this physical transposition seems to be a further level of reality authentication: in order to exist, what cannot be abstractly counted and digitally structured requires an additional level of physical representation. It’s as if it were a reincarnation that claims and provides a proof of an actual presence in the reality. Chiara Ciociola